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Max Streicher

Giant Babies, Canada, 2005

Sculptures, nylon, electric fans,
h-300 cm

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Herrmann & Wagner Berlin

The baby motif of Max Streicher comprises notions of vulnerability, renewal, future and hope.

“Inflatables have had an important place in my work since 1991. In most of these sculptures and installations I have used industrial fans and simple valve mechanisms to animate sewn forms with lifelike gestures My use of movement, particularly when it recalls the sensation of breathing, introduces qualities of vulnerability and ephemerality to a medium known more for its benignly comical nature. For me, this work is about the movement within the viewer from a playful and ironic headspace toward a physical connection to his or her most vital forces, corporeal and spiritual. Inflatables are the medium of enchantment, fantasy and optimism, but things do go wrong. The most famous example may be the Hindenburg disaster, and Macy’s Parade balloon characters occasionally crash into the crowd. In my work the distress behind the whimsy takes different forms. Scale is one factor. My giants are intended to overwhelm and, in contrast to similar commercial counterparts, they are out of control. They appear to struggle, but why and to what end? Whatever sense of disruption a work like this has may depend on what the individual viewer brings to the work. Gasping for breath, struggling to get up etc., can be for some an image of playfulness or birth, while for others it is distinctly an image of destruction and death. Both cases involve physical empathy, a bodily recognition of the elemental—powerful and tenuous—forces that animate us all. While pneumatic technology has often been employed by the utopian visionary it is today more commonly found in emergency devices of various kinds: life rafts, refugee shelters, dykes, oil spill containment, and so on. This shift within inflatable technology from utopian vision to survival device seems fitting to our time and creates an important dynamic for my work. While puffed up in their desire for a grand gesture they are grounded in the sobering and mundane facts of their vulnerability. As experiments in public sculpture, these works reflect my sense that our most profound experience of public gathering is our collective, often global, response to spectacle and disaster.”